cover image The Prague Sonata

The Prague Sonata

Bradford Morrow. Grove, $27 (528p) ISBN 978-0-8021-2715-0

In Morrow’s first novel since The Forgers, a former concert pianist fascinated by a mysterious musical text tries to track down the composer’s identity, the missing passages, and the woman who saved it for posterity by tearing it apart. An old Czech immigrant living in Queens gives pianist-turned-musicologist Meta Taverner the torn-out middle section of an unsigned musical work probably from the late 18th or early 19th century. Little is known about the original manuscript except that, 60 years before, in Nazi-occupied Prague, the manuscript’s owner, Otylie Bartošová, divided it into three pieces (each piece a complete movement) to hide it from the Nazis. The music’s passion and genius inspire Meta to leave her lawyer boyfriend and East Village apartment for research in Czechoslovakia. She arrives in Prague with a list of contacts: some prove helpful, others work against her. When she runs out of contacts, she goes door to door, assisted by an attractive Czech-American journalist. They locate a friend of Otylie’s husband, and then head to London, where Otylie had escaped without her husband but with her part of the manuscript. Music infuses Morrow’s descriptions of war, revolution, peace, love, friendship, and betrayal. Finely crafted storytelling ensures the multigenerational, transcontinental plot told through various points of view never becomes confusing. The reading pleasure comes from both Meta’s pursuit and the prose, which brims with musical, historical, and cultural detail. Agent: Henry Dunow, Dunow Carlson & Lerner Literary Agency. (Oct.)